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Jack the Ripper 'Diary' Cut From Publication; It's a Hoax

September 08, 1993| From The Washington Post

Warner Books Inc. on Tuesday canceled "The Diary of Jack the Ripper," one month before 200,000 copies of the Victorian serial killer's purported ramblings were to go on sale.

What was once touted by the publisher as the historical find of the century has collapsed into a hoax.

"It's so deadly obvious from every way you look. It's got too many fatal flaws," said Kenneth Rendell, a dealer in historical documents who spearheaded an intensive last-minute investigation of the diary at the request of the publisher after a Post story in July raised doubts about its authenticity.

Among the problems Rendell cited in his report: The style of handwriting is not Victorian, the handwriting does not resemble known examples of the alleged diarist's penmanship, and the diary is written in an oversize scrapbook with the first 20 pages missing.

Who wrote it is still unclear. There is a chance it is an old hoax. An ion migration analysis, used for determining how long the ink was on the paper, showed the document as dating from 1921, plus or minus 12 years. "It's possible," Rendell said, "it was done in the '30s, and someone set it out to be found at some later date."

Originally, the diary was scheduled to be Warner's biggest nonfiction book this fall. It explained how Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick, seeking revenge on his philandering wife, killed the six Ripper victims in drug-induced frenzies in 1888.

"It's not what it purports to be," said Warner President Larry Kirshbaum. "Despite the huge sales potential, our credibility means more."

The British publishers who first came up with the alleged diary said they did not know how or where it was found. The owner was identified as a former scrap metal dealer who said he was given the book by a retired printer, who is now dead.

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